#51: Ukraine, WWII bombs, climate protestors, free comedy tickets
And also a look at Berlin's energy dependence.
Hello 20 Percent,
My thoughts are with all the 20 Percent with ties to Ukraine as well as all Ukrainians, who are now struggling with an unnecessary war.
I spent Thursday reading about the logic behind the aggression (for me) as well as researching this newsletter and while the former offered little new, the latter delivered a surprise: Berlin is dependent on Russia’s natural resources. We’ve been saying that for years but I didn’t know we are dependent-dependent. Like, if Russia turned off all pipelines, Berlin would come to a standstill. Literally.
The details are below and while we would still have heat if an escalation led to an embargo, we would have little else. Even those who say they’re fine because they ride bikes and take public transport would quickly discover that their online orders no longer arrive and, more importantly, no food is being delivered to their grocery (or Späti).a
Berlin is dependent on a level my high school politics classes taught me were illegal because monopolies are illegal. This seems like a good moment to take stock and look where our money is going - and what it’s funding. Increasing, the EU’s energy independence is a good idea for endless reasons and the answer - renewables - is obvious.
At least it’s the weekend.
PS: This newsletter’s sponsor is a promising-sounding one-person show and Tuesday’s sponsor is offering a lucky reader two free tix to his Saturday comedy gig! Details below!
The Berlin corona stats for Friday, February 23
Fully vaccinated: 77.3% (76.3% Tuesday)
Received booster: 57.8% (57.4% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: +9,396 (8,244 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 4,242 (+25 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 1,137.3 (1,079.1 Tuesday)
🔴 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 18.5 (20.6 Tuesday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 12.4% (14.1% Tuesday)
Thousands of protestors gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate and Russian embassy Thursday to protest Moscow’s military action against its neighbor. Meanwhile, Berlin politicians said they will use their regular Tuesday meeting to discuss a strategy for accepting Ukrainian refugees - the city currently has about 1,300 free beds in refugee shelters, according to the Tagesspiegel, meaning gyms and other large indoor spaces could soon be converted to housing. Experts say up to 70,000 Ukrainians could flee to Germany as millions are expected to leave the country following Russia’s invasion. The Bundeswehrkrankenhaus - a military hospital also open to the public in Mitte - said it will also continue to treat Ukrainian soldiers.
Another day, another WWII bomb
About 9,000 Berliners had to leave their homes Thursday evening after construction workers discovered an unexploded WWII bomb on Kniprodestraße in Prenzlauer Berg, in yet another indication of why war is bad (as if we needed any), according to RBB24. The American bomb meant a 500-meter radius had to be evacuated, including two refugee shelters. The bomb was defused about midnight and an all-clear was given about 1am. The Ringbahn didn’t run between Schönhauser Allee and Landsberger Allee Thursday afternoon and evening, and service on the the M10 party tram was also interrupted. An emergency shelter was set up at the nearby velodrome and reportedly accomodated 500 residents Thursday.
BVG testing new digital tickets
The city’s public transport authority is looking for 1,000 volunteers to test a new check-in, check-out ticketing system that would automatically calculate the cheapest ride for commuters, according to the Morgenpost. While the company says it wants a broad cross-section of Berliners to participate in the trials, application materials for the program are all in German (eliminating 20 percent of Berliners). During the first phase, the system will calculate the best ticket based on a volunteer’s trips during a single day. During the second phase it will look at an entire month and then calculate the cheapest ticket (or tickets). The best part? No interaction with Kontrolleure. German application here.
Activists arrested near airport, again
Two climate activists were arrested early Friday near BER airport. The protestors from Uprising of the last generation were carrying balloons, apparently to irk pilots, according to newswire dpa. The group has said it wanted to disrupt air travel to highlight its efforts to reduce food waste and create more environmentally friendly agriculture laws - activists earlier this month glued themselves to airport access roads to temporarily close the streets. The group Friday also tweeted a video of protestors near the Munich airport being questioned by police while carrying a handful of helium-filled balloons.
An end to Russian gas wouldn’t be problematic, for now
An estimated 60 percent of the natural gas used to heat Berlin comes from Russia, Maik Wortmeier, the head of distributor Netzgesellschaft Berlin-Brandenburg, told Tagesspiegel recently. And though he doesn’t expect Russia to turn off the gas, he said residents would have little to worry about if it stopped flowing - laws governing distribution reportedly mean Berlin’s homes and gas-fired heating plants would have priority for the remaining supply (mostly from Norway). Other users, such as factories, would first have to go without during a shortfall. “There is currently no sign that this delivery mechanism will have to be activated,” Wortmeier told the paper (paywall link). Berlin actually has a natural gas reserve under Grunewald, established during the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948 and 1949, but it’s now used for research, the paper reported.
Nine out of ten cars in Berlin run on gasoline or diesel produced at a Russian-owned refinery in Schwedt, a small Brandenburg town northeast of Berlin. The figure comes from the PCK refinery, which was founded by the East German government as the Petrochemisches Kombinat in 1958. The refinery relies on Russian crude oil transported through the Druschba pipeline that runs through Belarus and Poland, and also skirts the Ukrainian-Belarussian border. PCK is 92-percent owned by state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft. Another refinery in Leuna, in Saxony-Anhalt southeast of Berlin, also supplies the Hauptstadt with petrochemical products - it’s owned by France’s TotalEnergies.
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